Houthi weapons intercepted in Omani trucks
Weapons allegedly meant for Houthi rebels were intercepted in Yemen, a discovery that apparently supports a complaint that Saudi officials recently filed with the United Nations.
According to a report in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Marib Governor Sultan al-Arada, who is a supporter of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, said authorities in Marib and the Yemeni Army continue to try to cut off supplies to the Houthis, an Iran-allied militia.
Arada said an attempt in August to smuggle weapons and explosives from the Hadramawt region to Sana’a was foiled. The armaments were reportedly discovered in trucks with Omani licence plates.
“Arada did not confirm an external link to that shipment, indicating that the trucks were carrying Omani licence plates but it was not possible to confirm any Omani authorities’ connection to that,” Al- Hayat reported.
Oman, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), was considered neutral in the Yemen conflict. However, Yemeni sources previously told The Arab Weekly that a rift had developed between Saudi Arabia and Oman over what Riyadh views as Muscat’s pivot towards the Houthi rebels in their conflict with the Yemeni government.
The sources said the Saudi-Omani tensions were apparent when the delegation negotiating on behalf of the Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party in Kuwait was prevented from travelling from Muscat to Sana’a.
The delegation, which included high-ranking Houthi leader Mohammed Abdulsalam and the GPC’s Aref Awad al-Zoka, had boarded a plane provided by the sultanate. It was prevented from flying directly to Sana’a because the no-fly zone maintained by Riyadh requires all aircraft to land in the Saudi city of Jeddah for inspection and identification of passengers.
The Houthi delegation returned to Sana’a recently on a plane provided by US Under-secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon as part of a US drive to kick-start diplomatic talks.
Saudi authorities were taken by surprise in late 2014 when learning that Oman brokered talks between the United States and Iran that led to the nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
In January, when a mob attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran over the execution of a radical Shia preacher whose followers were tied to a number of police killings, Oman did not sever or downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran.
Recently a Washington-based think-tank revealed Iran has 50 tonnes of material that can be used to create nuclear weapons stored in Oman but under the Islamic republic’s control. This not-publicly-disclosed exception from the United States and its negotiating partners was done so Tehran could meet a deadline related to the removal of economic sanctions.
Sources in Muscat confirm an investigation into the spreading of Shia ideas in Omani society, with as many as 500 recent converts to the Twelfth Imam Shia sect from the traditional Abadi and Maliki sects. The Twelfth Imam is the branch of Shia Islam that is Iran’s official religion.